Mailbag: Yelich, Wade, Cozart, Domingos, Schwarber, Hicks

Thirteen questions in this week’s mailbag. The email address for all mailbag related correspondence is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. We’re getting more questions this year than we did the last few seasons, probably because the Yankees are good now, so don’t feel discouraged if yours doesn’t get picked. Keep trying.

Yelich. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Yelich. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Alessandro asks: So if the Marlins do indeed make Christian Yelich available, that’s someone we should totally go after, right?

Yup. Ken Rosenthal (video link) recently reported the Marlins will be “wide open” at the trade deadline and will listen to offers for basically everyone, including Yelich. Yelich is off to a slow start this season — he’s hitting .268/.348/.406 (101 wRC+) so far — but it’s only a matter of time until that turns around. The facts:

  • He is still only 25 years old and he will spend the entire season at that age.
  • He had a 118 wRC+ every year from 2013-15 — literally 118 on the nose all three years — before breaking out and hitting .298/.376/.483 (130 wRC+) with a career high 21 home runs in 2016.
  • He is an excellent defensive outfielder who can remain in center field for the foreseeable future.
  • He is owed $43.25M from 2018-21 with a $15M club option for 2022, so he’s signed through his age 30 season.

Also, Yelich is basically a shift proof left-handed hitter. He goes the other way as well and as often as anyone. His power spike last year was the result of him finally figuring out how to pull the ball a little more often. Here is his 2016 spray chart, via Baseball Savant:


It’s beautiful. So, to recap, Yelich is a 25-year-old left-handed hitter who hits the ball to all fields while playing a mean center field and being signed affordably for another five seasons behind 2017. That is someone you pursue very aggressively if the Marlins do indeed make him available. Yelich would fit the Yankees’ youth movement perfectly.

What will it take to get him? A lot, obviously. The Nationals gave up two top 50 prospects (Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez) plus a third good prospect (Dane Dunning) for Adam Eaton, who like Yelich is signed affordably long-term, but is also three years older and has an uglier injury history. (Even before the recent knee injury.)

It would in no way be unreasonable for the Marlins to ask for Gleyber Torres in a Yelich trade. Fortunately the Yankees have the prospects to make it happen without including Gleyber. In that case we’re talking a package that includes Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, a really good third piece like Dustin Fowler or Chance Adams, and probably a really good fourth piece too. I’d seriously consider it. Then again, I’ve been a Yelich guy since he was in the minors, so I’m biased.

Bill asks: I know the plan is to groom Gleyber to take over 3rd, but reality is he probably needs a few months in AAA. Why isn’t Wade being discussed more for 3rd? He has played multiple positions (including 3rd if I’m not mistaken) and he has had a great year at AAA. Seems like a logical move unless his defense at 3rd is that bad.

I’m sure the Yankees are considering Tyler Wade for third base too, but no one is really talking about him because he’s not the sexy top prospect like Torres. Keep in mind Wade has even less third base experience than Gleyber at the moment. Wade has started seven games at the position in his career, all this season. He also played one game there in the Arizona Fall League. Torres has 12 games at the hot corner this year (and for his career). They’re both new to third base. Like I said, I definitely think Wade is someone the Yankees are considering. He’s just not a sexy enough prospect to generate headlines.

Dan asks: With the surprising move of the Yankees reinstating Tyler Austin from the 60-Day DL and optioning him to AAA, I was wondering if there could be any service-time thresholds the Yankees might be trying to avoid? If yes, when would he be an option to come back up?

I seriously doubt it. The Yankees activated Austin because his 20-day minor league rehab stint was about to expire, and they optioned him because they believe Chris Carter is the better first baseman. It’s really that simple. It’s not worth worrying about Austin’s service time. A year and a half ago he was designated for assignment and unclaimed on waivers. He’s someone you call up whenever he’s ready, get whatever you can out of him, then move on when the time comes. There’s no reason to manipulate service time with non-elite prospects, especially if you’re the Yankees.

Michael asks: If Ellsbury is still out as the deadline approaches do we go out and get more of a true 4th outfielder?

I hadn’t thought about that. Seems possible, right? I suppose it depends what the Yankees want to do with Frazier and Fowler. Are they comfortable using either as a true fourth outfielder, meaning only occasional spot start duty? I don’t like that idea. I’d rather let them play everyday in Triple-A. In that case picking up a veteran fourth outfielder who passes the “better than Mason Williams” test at the deadline wouldn’t be a bad idea. I don’t know who that could be. Rajai Davis? Cameron Maybin? Gregor Blanco? Right now, Rob Refsnyder is the fourth outfielder, and that’s not good.

Cozart. (Andy Lyons/Getty)
Cozart. (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Steve asks: How about Cozart an outside the box trade for 3B? I know he has only ever played SS but with his defense I imagine he could be moved to 3B and handle it easily enough….FA at the end of the year, and wouldn’t cost a lot of prospects, just an idea. Thoughts?

Interesting idea. Zack Cozart has been unreal this season. He’s hitting .346/.430/.612 (170 wRC+) with nine homers — he passed Aaron Judge in fWAR the other day (+3.3 to +3.1) — plus he’s an outstanding defensive shortstop. Has been for years. Cozart has never played third base though, not even in the minors, so you’d be asking him to learn the position on the fly. That seems like a bad idea even for someone with his defensive skills.

I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t pay for outlier performance at the trade deadline, and even though Cozart has been a solid player throughout his career, he’s never done anything close to this with the bat before. Maybe it’s a legit breakout (at age 31)! Do you want to bet a boatload of prospects on it at the deadline? I’d rather not, though I like the outside the box thinking. Cozart is an impending free agent, so the Reds are going to trade him. My guess is he winds up with the Nationals. They’ll go with Cozart at short and put Trea Turner back in center field to cover for the Eaton injury.

Dan asks: The two Sundays, Acevedo and German, can you tell us if they either of them are rotation options this year?

Domingo German yes, Domingo Acevedo no. Acevedo is more of a 2018 guy. Also, I don’t think German is someone the Yankees could count on for more than a spot start right now either. He’s having a fine season and by all accounts his stuff has returned following Tommy John surgery, but he had never pitched above High-A prior to this season. I could see him getting called up to make a spot start because he is already on the 40-man roster — not to mention a token September call-up to sit in the bullpen all month — but probably nothing more this year. Acevedo just got to Double-A himself and there are too many MLB ready (or readier) arms ahead of him at the moment. I don’t see him debuting in 2017.

Dave asks (short version): With Chance Adams pitching so well, doesn’t a six-man rotation make sense for them right now? Most of the rotation could use the extra rest (Tanaka, CC) or the limited innings (Sevy, Jordan).

The Yankees have been playing with a three-man bench and an eight-man bullpen for a few weeks now, and of course that eight-reliever isn’t pitching a whole lot. Right now Gio Gallegos is the eighth reliever with Tommy Layne the “he doesn’t pitch much either” seventh reliever. Carrying a sixth starter instead of an eighth reliever seems like a better use of the roster spot. It’ll give the regular five starters extra rest — surely Luis Severino is on some sort of workload limit, right? — and also give Adams a chance to cut his teeth in the show. My official 25th roster spot power rankings:

  1. Fourth bench player, especially with first and third bases being so bad these last few weeks.
  2. Sixth starter to give everyone extra rest throughout the season.
  3. Eighth reliever who pitches maybe once a week. Maybe.

And there you have it.

Nate asks: Buster Olney hinted on the podcast that the Cubs may be souring on Schwarber. Would a package of Fowler + Sheffield + another arm make sense for both sides? Seems like Schwarber could do well in YS as a 1b/DH.

I wouldn’t trade Fowler for Kyle Schwarber straight up. I’ve never been a Schwarber guy. Said it all last year during the trade rumors. Let’s look at this objectively and strip away the Cubs hype. Schwarber is a career .212/.328/.435 (108 wRC+) big league hitter — he’s at .173/.298/.377 (81 wRC+) in 2017 — with a 29.0% strikeout rate, and against lefties, he’s hit .141/.262/.216 (47 wRC+) with a 39.3% strikeout rate. That’s not a new problem either. There were always concerns about Schwarber’s inability to hit lefties, and everyone just kinda ignored them for some reason.

Furthermore, Schwarber has no position. He’s a designated hitter all the way. And he’s a negative on the bases who recently had a major knee injury. Schwarber has left-handed power and patience against righties, and the Yankees do love that, but he offers literally nothing else. He’s a platoon designated hitter. I’m not saying I wouldn’t take him under the right circumstances, but Fowler and Sheffield and more? Not a chance. Schwarber’s upside is too limited given his skill set. His best years might be +3 WAR.

Schwarber. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Schwarber. (Jon Durr/Getty)

Gene asks: Putting contract and free agent issues aside, if you were the Yankees front office, if you could would you trade Aaron Judge straight up for Mookie Betts?

Yes. If we completely ignore contract status and service time and all that, and focus only on talent and expected production going forward, I would take Betts over Judge. He’s a few months younger, his combination of contact (career 11.7 K%) and power (career .196 ISO) is extremely rare, plus he adds a ton of value on the bases and in the field. I love Judge. He’s the man and I’m glad the Yankees have him. But Betts is the better player. I’d rather have him going forward. Now, that said, Betts will be a free agent following the 2020 season. Judge won’t be a free agent until after 2022. I’d take six years of Judge over four years of Betts.

Gai asks: Do you buy into Aaron Hicks‘ success this season? Where do you think he fits in long term? He’s a former top prospect and having an incredible eye is a very important trait to have as a hitter, so it makes me excited to think Hicks might actually be a long term solution.

Yes I buy into Hicks turning things around for real, no I don’t buy him as a true talent .315/.426/.550 (163 wRC+) hitter going forward. I would love to see Hicks keep that up, but I don’t expect it. That would be amazing. I think he could settle in long-term around, say, .280/.380/.450, which is obviously really good. Keep in mind though that Hicks will become a free agent after the 2019 season, so it’s not like he’s under control super long-term. Perhaps the Yankees should approach him about an extension? Eh. Might be a little too soon for that. I’m excited Hicks has turned it around and I’m excited he’s complicated the outfielder picture even further.

Quintin: Judge seems to always have long at bats. Does he rank 1st on the team in terms of pitches per plate appearance? Where does he rank in the MLB? Also, even though he’s having an amazing year, do you think it would benefit him to be a little more aggressive earlier in his at bats? Thanks!

Judge does always have long at-bats. He’s averaging 4.36 pitches per plate appearance, which leads the Yankees and is seventh high among all qualified hitters in baseball. The top seven:

  1. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: 4.49 pitches per plate appearance
  2. Curtis Granderson, Mets: 4.48
  3. Kyle Schwarber, Cubs: 4.46
  4. Todd Frazier, White Sox: 4.46
  5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 4.41
  6. Jayson Werth, Nationals: 4.39
  7. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 4.36

Brett Gardner (4.26), Matt Holliday (4.23), and Chase Headley (4.18) are all in the top 25 as well. Working the count is great and all, but at the end of the day, you’re trying to get a pitch to hit, and if that pitch comes early in the at-bat, so be it. I don’t think it would be a bad thing for Judge to be a little more aggressive early in the count, but what he’s doing right now is working so well that it’s not much of a concern at all.

Jeff asks: Inspired by Cone talking about Gardner’s base running prowess since he entered the league… is there any data that compares the value of stolen base % vs total bases stolen? As in, would you rather have someone go 15-for-15 in SBs or someone who goes 20-for-25? Thanks.

Sure. In the calculation for wOBA, the value of a stolen base is held constant at +0.2 runs year to year. The value of a caught stealing changes each year depending on the offensive environment. In a high scoring era with a lot of homers, a caught stealing is more damaging than it is in a low offensive era. Losing baserunners when the ball is flying is bad. When runs are at a premium, steals are worth the risk.

So anyway, stolen bases are held constant at +0.2 runs. This year a caught stealing is worth -0.416 runs. So going 15-for-15 in steal attempts is worth +3.0 runs (15 x 0.2). Going 20-for-25 equals +1.92 runs ([20 x 0.2] + [5 x -0.416]). In theory, going 15-for-15 is more valuable than going 20-for-25 because losing those five baserunners hurts more than the extra 90-feet five times helps. The stolen base is a weird thing though. In the eighth inning of a tie game, a stolen base could be huge. In a fifth inning of a blowout, it’s meaningless. I’ve always felt the blanket “steals are +0.2 runs” statement was overly simplistic.

Alex asks: Is it time to start thinking about Judge or Sanchez as the next captain of the Yankees? This year is obviously early, but in the next few seasons would that make sense for one of them?

Way too early. Way way way too early. Derek Jeter wasn’t named captain until 2003, in the eighth season of his career. He’d won four World Series and signed a massive ten-year contract by then. The Yankees knew he was sticking around. Don Mattingly wasn’t named captain until 1991. We’ve got a long way to go before the Yankees name another captain, I believe. I do think Judge is captain material because he’s an extreme team first guy with a great work ethic. People gravitate to him. Let’s just let Aaron Judge be Aaron Jdge for a while before we worry about naming captains. The same is true with Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, whoever.

Sanchez and Pineda power the Yankees to an 9-1 win over the Red Sox

It’s a good day when the Yankees get to extend their division lead. Even better when they do it after a win against the Red Sox. Great pitching by Michael Pineda and some power hitting go a long way. Yankees are now 34-23 and 3 games above the Red Sox and O’s for the first place in AL East.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike coming up big

This is the finest start that Pineda’s ever thrown against the Red Sox – 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB and 8 K’s. It’s the first time ever that he’s gone 7 innings against Boston AND also the first that he allowed 0 ER in a start against them. How about that? Came at a good time too, when the Yankees are trying to extend the division lead against a rival. His offspeed pitches were working tonight, generating 12 whiffs overall between his changeup and slider (25.5% rate). 7 out of his 8 strikeouts were swinging as well. I like.

The only run that he allowed came via a runner reaching on an error and scoring on a passed ball. In the top of the fourth, with the Yankees leading 4-0, Xander Bogaerts reached when Chase Headley made a bad one-hop throw to Chris Carter that he couldn’t handle. Mitch Moreland followed it up with a sneaky bunt single against the shift, but Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play to erase a chunk of the Sox threat. However, facing Jackie Bradley Jr., Pineda threw a fastball with a big cutting action that got past Gary Sanchez‘s mitt. The ball rolled into the backstop and Bogaerts was able to score easily. It was ruled a passed ball – Sanchez should’ve been able to catch that. Oh well. A minor blemish to a great start.

Anyways, after tonight’s dominant start, Pineda’s season stats improved to 7-3, 3.39 ERA in 71.2 IP with 17 walks and 75 K’s. Sure, there are worries about his long-ball tendencies but if he keeps those numbers up, Pineda will end up becoming a rich man in the free agency (assuming the Yankees don’t extend him by then). Before that, for now, let’s enjoy the improved Big Mike shoving it to the hitters more often this season.

(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Mike Stobe/Getty Images)


There’s no denying that David Price is a top-tier MLB starting pitcher. However, ever since joining the Red Sox, the lefty has turned into a pumpkin when facing the Yankees. Tonight, the Yankees got 6 runs off of him in 5 innings. Since last year, they’ve pounded Price to a tune of 8.31 ERA in 34.1 IP. As someone sided with the Yankees, let me say this: this is fun.

The big blows by the Yankee bats tonight are mostly comprised of the three home runs Рtwo by Gary Sanchez and one from Brett Gardner. With the Yankees leading 1-0, the bats got it going in the bottom of the third. Aaron Judge and Matt Holliday got on base with a single and a walk, respectively. Two hitters later, Sanchez hit a 87 mph pitch right down the middle into the right field seats for a no-doubt, 415 feet 3-run homer. 4-0 Yankees.

After the Red Sox added a run, the Yankees headed into the bottom of the fifth with a 4-1 lead. Sanchez changed that once again. This time, he hit a 96 mph fastball from Price into over the opposite field fence for a 2-run HR, making it 6-1 Yankees. After tonight, Sanchez is 4-for-7 with 4 HR’s against David Price.

Gardner joined in the big flies fun leading off the bottom of the eighth. The Yankees had a 7-1 lead going in with Starlin Castro adding an RBI single back in the sixth. Brett the Jet hit a breaking ball from Brandon Workman that traveled into the right field seats to make it 8-1 Yankees. Gardner’s power surge in 2017 has been… something. He has 13 home runs this season already, which is only 4 away from his career-high set in 2014. It is even more impressive that he did it in the past 160 PAs. The Yankees loaded the bases up in the frame with two singles (Aaron Hicks and Judge) and a HBP (Holliday), scratching a run out of it with a Castro’s fielder’s choice groundout. 9-1 Yankees, it is.


After Pineda departed, Adam Warren came in the eighth inning and pitched a clean frame. In the ninth, Girardi had Giovanny Gallegos pitch through the first two outs and put in Dellin Betances to get the last out. That was an interesting decision in his part. Bring in the closer in the top of the 9th with a 9-1 lead? The only explanation that I can think of is that Betances has only pitched in two games in the past two weeks and needs to get some game action somehow. Some will argue that if Girardi really wanted to get some work in for Betances, he would’ve let him start the inning. I don’t disagree. Just an interesting decision all-around but, in the grand scheme of things, Betances ended the game. 9-1 Yankees win.

Aaron Judge hasn’t homered much lately but man, he can still hit. Today, he had a 3-for-4 day with one of the base hits registering at 119.8 mph (!!!) off the bat. Judge has hit 7 balls over 116.0 mph this season and the rest of the big league has 12.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees will host a 3-game series vs. Orioles this weekend. Tomorrow, they’ll have Jordan Montgomery up on the hill against Dylan Bundy.

DotF: Andujar’s hitting streak reaches 16, Herrera dominates in Trenton’s win

In case you missed it earlier, I posted my pre-draft top 30 Yankees prospects list. Feel free to mock me.

Triple-A Scranton (3-2 loss to Lehigh Valley)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-5, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • LF Dustin Fowler: 1-4, 1 BB
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 2 BB, 1 K — he told D.J. Eberle he feels close, which I take to mean he still needs more at-bats … he played nine innings tonight, will play nine innings at first base tomorrow, then DH on Saturday
  • DH Tyler Austin: 0-4, 1 BB — Bird and Austin hitting back-to-back in the minors like the old days
  • RF Clint Frazier: 2-4, 1 2B, 1 K, 1 SB — that’s three stolen bases in the last two games and six in seven attempts this season
  • 2B Gleyber Torres: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-3, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 SB
  • RHP Brady Lail: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 8/4 GB/FB, 1 E (missed catch) — 63 of 97 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Ben Heller: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 0/1 GB/FB — three pitches, one strike

[Read more…]

Game 57: Win the Series

The fan favorites. (Elsa/Getty)
The fan favorites. (Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox have split the first two games of this three-game series, which means tonight is the rubber game. Just win series is the goal, but man, against a division rival, the series win is always that much sweeter. And more meaningful too. Newsflash: the AL East isn’t getting any easier as the season progresses.

Last time out Michael Pineda, tonight’s starter, had a rough go of it against the Blue Jays. Every pitcher has a bad start now and then, but given Pineda’s history, you can’t help but wonder whether that start was just a blip, or the other shoe dropping. Pineda’s been pretty good so far this year. It would be cool to see him shake that rough outing off and pitch well tonight. Just win the series, baby. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Chris Carter
    RHP Michael Pineda

The weather is okay in New York. Not great, not awful. Just okay. Overcast and cool, though there’s no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s series finale will begin at 7:05pm ET and both YES (local) and ESPN (national) will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

2017 Draft: Seth Romero

Seth Romero | LHP

Romero, 21, was not drafted out of a Texas high school a few years back and wound up at Houston. Working mostly as a starter with the Cougars, he had a 2.43 ERA with 290 strikeouts and 70 walks in 226 innings in college. Romero was kicked off Houston’s baseball team last month, reportedly because he got into a fight with a teammate and took a photo holding a bong in full uniform. He was suspended two other times during his college career for conduct detrimental to the team.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 240 lbs., Romero has a thick frame and he generates easy mid-90s velocity with his fastball. He sits 93-95 mph and has run it up as high as 97 mph. Romero’s out pitch is a nasty mid-80s slider, and his changeup has improved to the point where it is now a reliable third pitch he can use to neutralize righties. There’s a little bit of effort in Romero’s delivery, though he’s a good athlete and he repeats it well, and he usually has no trouble throwing his fastball for strikes. The stuff is legit. The makeup is questionable.

Romero came into the spring as a likely top ten pick, though the ongoing off-the-field issues have pushed him down draft boards. In their latest rankings, both (24th) and Baseball America (27th) ranked Romero as a back-half of the first round prospect, while Keith Law (subs. req’d) dinged him hard and ranked him 59th. The Yankees pick 16th. A college kid smoking pot is no big deal. Fighting with teammates though? That’s bad. The Yankees really value makeup and my guess is they would pass on Romero, even if his talent says he’d be a coup with that 16th overall pick.

The Blue Jays and Red Sox have found a way to attack Aaron Judge, and now it’s up to him to adjust


Last night the Yankees put a hurting on reigning AL Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello (lol), and they did it without getting anything from Aaron Judge. He went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts, which dragged his season batting line down to a still incredible .321/.428/.668 (190 RC+). There ain’t much BABIP luck in there either. Judge tattoos the ball on the regular.

Over these last six games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox, Judge has gone 6-for-22 (.273) with eleven strikeouts, though he also has six walks and three extra-base hits (two doubles and a homer). He hasn’t been bad by any means. That is a lot of strikeouts though, and it seems the Blue Jays and Red Sox have found a way to attack Judge: with high fastballs.

Here, via Baseball Savant, are two strike zone heat maps. The heat map on the left shows the fastball location Judge saw in April and May. The heat map on the right is the fastball location he’s seen in June, which, conveniently, are these last six games against the Blue Jays and Red Sox (click to embiggen):


Not surprisingly, pitchers tried to attack Judge down and away earlier this season, even with heaters. He’s 6-foot-7 and they wanted him to reach as far as possible for the ball. Judge has shown he can handle that down-and-away pitch so far this season. How many times have we seen him flick that outside pitch to right field? More than a few.

These last two series though, against Toronto and Boston, two division rivals who figure to really dig in and study Judge, Judge has seem many more fastballs upstairs. That’s not easy to do! The guy is 6-foot-7. A high fastball to a normal hitter would be at the letters for Judge. You’ve got to go higher than high against him.

Judge has been getting hosed on low called strikes all season (the numbers confirm it) and now he has to worry about high pitches too. All those high fastballs from the Blue Jays and Red Sox have resulted in a lot of swings and misses from Judge lately. Here are the pitch locations of his swings and misses against fastballs these last six games:


Yep. They’re going upstairs against him and Judge has chased. Not to the point where he’s been completely neutralized — like I said, he is 6-for-22 with a homer these last six games — but enough to stop him from being the planet-eating monster he was in April and May. They’ve (mostly) kept him in the park and generated more empty swings. That’s a win for them. They’d love to stop Judge. They’ll settle for containing him.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe not the high fastballs specifically, but the fact opposing teams have found a way to keep Judge in check. The Blue Jays and Red Sox are going to see an awful lot of Judge going forward. They did their homework and hey, look at that, they both came up with the same plan. (Perhaps the Red Sox are copying the Blue Jays. Who knows.)

The league has started to adjust to Judge and now it’s up to Judge to adjust back. That’s baseball. And you know what? In his relatively brief big league career, Judge has already shown he can make adjustments. He looks like a completely different hitter now than he was last year. That’s not a fluke. That’s the result of hard work and baseball smarts. Now Judge will have to work to combat all these high fastballs.

Because he made the adjustment from last year to this year, and has a history of making adjustments in the minors, I am completely confident Judge will figure out how to handle this sudden barrage of high fastballs. Hopefully he can make that adjustment soon, but if it takes some time, then it takes time. Baseball is hard. The Blue Jays and Red Sox have come up with a bit of a blueprint though. Want to slow Judge down? Go upstairs. It’s only a matter of time until other teams start doing it too.

2017 Pre-Draft Top 30 Prospects

Gleyber and Clint. (New York Daily News)
Gleyber and Clint. (New York Daily News)

Baseball’s annual amateur draft will begin Monday, which means all 30 teams are about to add many new players to their farm systems. The draft is an exciting time. Thousands of young players will take a step toward achieving their dream of being a big league ballplayer. Only a handful will make it, of course. Even fewer will stick in MLB long-term.

The Yankees currently boast one of the best farm systems in baseball, and that’s even after graduating several high-end young players to show the last two years. Already this year three players from my preseason top 30 prospects list have exhausted their MLB rookie eligibility: Aaron Judge (No. 3), Jordan Montgomery (No. 13), and Chad Green (No. 20). Jonathan Holder wasn’t on my top 30, but he’ll graduate to MLB soon too.

With the 2017 draft only a few days away, it’s time for something of a check-up on the farm system. My annual pre-draft top 30 prospects list is, by far, my least favorite list because it’s prone to small sample size noise and knee-jerk reactions. And there are rarely new players. The Yankees haven’t made any trades yet this year, so there have been no new names added to the system.

So, with all that in mind, here is my updated list of the top 30 prospects in the farm system. Feel free to bookmark this post and mock me in the future.

The Tippy Top Prospects

1. SS Gleyber Torres, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 1)
2. OF Clint Frazier, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 2)
3. OF Blake Rutherford, Low-A (Preseason: No. 4)
4. LHP Justus Sheffield, Double-A (Preseason: No. 6)

These four are clearly the top four prospects in the system, in my opinion, and yet there’s enough separation between them that figuring out the exact order is easy. Gleyber is one of the five best prospects in baseball and is knocking on the door at Triple-A. Both Frazier and Rutherford have a chance to be impact bats, and with Frazier in Triple-A and Rutherford in Low-A, Frazier gets the nod at No. 2. Sheffield is the top pitching prospect in the farm system and I don’t think it’s all that close either. We should really talk about him more. A 21-year-old three-pitch southpaw having success at Double-A is a hell of a prospect.

The Other Top Prospects

5. SS/CF Jorge Mateo, High-A (Preseason: No. 7)
6. 3B Miguel Andujar, Double-A (Preseason: No. 8)
7. RHP Albert Abreu, Low-A (Preseason: No. 9)
8. UTIL Tyler Wade, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 10)
9. OF Dustin Fowler, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 12)
10. RHP Chance Adams, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 11)

The six players in his tier are almost interchangeable. They really are. If you believe that, say, Fowler should rank fifth and Mateo should be tenth, it would in no way be unreasonable. These six players are all borderline top 100 prospects — Mateo has been on more than a few top 100 lists over the years, and so far this year we’ve seen Abreu (Baseball Prospectus), Wade (Baseball Prospectus), Adams (, and Fowler ( and FanGraphs) make some top 100 lists — who would make every top 150 list.

I’m sticking with my preseason guns with Mateo even though he’s given folks every reason to drop him in their prospect rankings. He’s hitting .249/.292/.409 (99 wRC+) while repeating High-A this year after hitting .254/.306/.379 (99 wRC+) at the level last year. Dude. I’m inclined to cut him some slack because he’s learning center field, but still. Mateo needs to start hitting and soon. I’ve long been an Andujar believer, which is why I still have him over the Triple-A guys despite their success.

The Damaged Prospects

11. RHP James Kaprielian, High-A (Preseason: No. 5)
12. RHP Dillon Tate, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 14)

Sigh. Things never go according to plan. Kaprielian looked good in the Arizona Fall League last year and he nearly made it through Spring Training in one piece this year. Then his elbow started barking again, and soon thereafter he underwent Tommy John surgery. He’ll be out until midseason 2018, most likely. The persistent elbow trouble is too much to ignore. Kaprielian is going to miss close to two full seasons with elbow woes, which is why he dropped in the rankings.

I know it seems Tate has moved up two spots since the preseason top 30, but he really hasn’t. He’s in the same spot. Two players ahead of him on the preseason list (Judge and Montgomery) graduated, which is why he went from No. 14 to No. 12. Anyway, Tate has yet to pitch in an official game this season due to a shoulder issue. Last we heard, farm system head Gary Denbo said Tate was getting “close,” whatever that means. That was 18 days ago.

The International Players

13. RHP Domingo Acevedo, Double-A (Preseason: No. 15)
14. OF Estevan Florial, High-A (Preseason: No. 16)
15. RHP Domingo German, Triple-A (Preseason: No. 24)
16. SS Hoy Jun Park, Low-A (Preseason: No. 17)
17. SS Wilkerman Garcia, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 18)
18. SS Thairo Estrada, Double-A (Preseason: No. 27)

German is the biggest riser from the preseason list. He’s further away from Tommy John surgery and reports indicate he’s throwing fire, regularly sitting 94-96 mph and touching 99 mph. German has also reached Triple-A after a quick stop at Double-A and has acquitted himself well. He’s going to pitch in the big leagues this year. It wouldn’t completely shock me if he were to get the call to make a spot start soon, even over Adams, especially since German is on the 40-man roster.

Acevedo and Florial have two of the highest ceilings in the farm system and they’ve done nothing but impress so far this season, which is nice to see. Estrada is the other big mover on the pre-draft list. I’ve been an unabashed Thairo fan for a few years now, and he’s making me look smart by hitting .326/.402/.442 (140 wRC+) with the same number of walks as strikeouts (21 each) as a 21-year-old in Double-A. Contact skills and defensive versatility on the infield will serve him well long-term. I get the sense he’s a trade chip for the Yankees more than anything.

The Former Top Prospects

19. LHP Ian Clarkin, High-A (Preseason: No. 19)
20. 1B/OF Tyler Austin, Triple-A (Preseason: No 21)

Once upon a time, Clarkin and Austin could be found near the top of a top 30 Yankees prospects list. Clarkin as a former first round pick and Austin as a late-round pick who annihilated minor league pitching. Both have seen their stock drop in recent years due to injury. Clarkin missed the 2015 season with an elbow issue, missed the second half of 2016 with knee surgery, and missed a few weeks this year with a sore shoulder. He’s healthy now though.

Austin reached the big leagues last season after years of wrist problems and poor performance. A fluke ankle injury suffered in Spring Training delayed the start of his season, and it wasn’t until the middle of last month that he started a minor league rehab assignment. The Yankees activated and optioned Austin to Triple-A earlier this week. We’ll see him again at some point soon. I don’t think he’ll be prospect eligible much longer.

The Bottom Ten

21. 3B Dermis Garcia, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 23)
22. LHP Josh Rogers, Double-A (Preseason: No. 25)
23. SS Kyle Holder, High-A (Preseason: No. 26)
24. C Donny Sands, Low-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)
25. RHP Drew Finley, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: No. 28)
26. RHP Nolan Martinez, Extended Spring Training (Preseason: Not Ranked)
27. OF Billy McKinney, Double-A (Preseason: No. 22)
28. OF Leonardo Molina, Low-A (Preseason: No. 30)
29. RHP Zack Littell, High-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)
30. RHP Yefry Ramirez, Double-A (Preseason: Not Ranked)

Three players graduated to MLB (Judge, Montgomery, Green) and four players were added to the list (Sands, Martinez, Littell, Ramirez). The other player who dropped off: OF Mason Williams. He was No. 29 on my preseason list. He’s going to be 26 in August and he’s hitting .236/.281/.251 (48 wRC+) in Triple-A, so it’s time to cut bait. There are too many other quality prospects in the farm system to keep Williams in the top 30.

Anyway, McKinney’s drop is second largest only to Kaprielian, and at least Kaprielian has the injury excuse. McKinney is healthy and still hitting .206/.306/.350 (82 wRC+) in his third try at Double-A. Remember how great he looked in Spring Training? Spring Training lies, man. McKinney’s a bat only prospect. He has to hit to have any value whatsoever, and he’s not hitting. At least Kyle Holder can fall back on his glove, you know?

The new additions are all players who were seriously considered for the preseason list, so it’s not like they’re jumping into the top 30 after toiling in obscurity. Sands is progressing well behind the plate as a converted third baseman, and over the last few weeks his bat has really come alive too. Martinez, last year’s third rounder, is very similar to Finley in that he’s an advanced high school starter with a deep repertoire. I’m looking forward to following him once the short season leagues start later this month.

Littell is having an excellent statistical season (1.94 ERA and 3.46 FIP) and it’s probably only a matter of time until he gets bumped up to Double-A. He has a starter’s repertoire and a ton of pitching know-how. I’m a fan. Yefry has three sneaky good pitches and is having success at Double-A (2.52 ERA and 3.55 FIP). Guys like that normally rank in the top 15 somewhere. In this farm system, he’s No. 30. Pretty sweet minor league Rule 5 Draft pick, I’d say. Odds are both of these guys will get pushed out by 2017 draftees when I put together the post-draft list.

Among the other players considered for the back-end of this updated top 30 prospects list were, in alphabetical order, IF Abi Avelino, IF Oswaldo Cabrera, LHP Daniel Camarena, SS Diego Castillo, RHP Jorge Guzman, RHP Ben Heller, RHP Ronald Herrera, RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Freicer Perez, and 2B Nick Solak. Not being able to squeeze some of those guys into the list, particularly Castillo and Guzman, surprised me. The Yankees are still loaded in the minors.